Joel Osteen, the popular author and pastor of Lakewood Church, released his latest book this month last year: Make Every Day a Friday: How to be Happier 7 Days a Week. The premise is clear enough: Fridays are great because the workweek is over and the weekend is starting. Wouldn’t it be great if we could be as happy every day as we are on Friday?
There is a delightful irony here. Beyond the thank-God-its-Friday sentiment, the title points to a profound truth—a truth the author may not have intended. In the Christian tradition, Friday is great, not because it is the start of the weekend, but because it is the day our Lord died on the cross for the salvation of the world. We should make every day a Friday, not in the sense of enjoying the “TGIF” feeling throughout the workweek, but as a way of living the spirit of the sacrifice of the cross.
Why would we wish to keep the cross in mind rather than that great feeling of clocking-out on Friday afternoon? To put it simply, the way to happiness passes through the cross. What we need is more than an attitude change or a decision to be happy. We need a real transformation of the “stuff of life”: the pains and the inconveniences, the embarrassments and the failures, the misunderstandings and the scars. The hardships of life do not stop—not even on a three-day weekend. As long as we are on earth, they are with us. Our consolation does not lie in knowing that our sufferings periodically cease, but in knowing that they are transformed in the here and now. Our Lord’s death on the cross gives a new meaning to our suffering and a new horizon to our hope. Christ offered himself up for the salvation of the world, and we, by offering our sufferings in union with him, can participate in his redemptive sacrifice.
This sounds great, but it seems almost too lofty for everyday life. Why would we want to keep the cross before us every day? Why not once a year on Good Friday? Why not just during Lent? Why not just on Fridays? We choose to live Friday every day because Our Lord tells us, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Lk 9:23). We daily embrace our cross that we might daily embrace the love that saves the world. By this love, the disciple of Christ discovers a happiness that transcends even the greatest promise of weekend bliss. What happened on Good Friday gives every day “Friday potential.”
One practical way to join our sufferings to Christ’s is to pray the Morning Offering. This is a way of offering our daily sufferings in union with the daily sacrifice of the Mass, the presentation of Our Lord’s self-offering on the cross. We can renew this offering throughout the day with short, spontaneous prayers such as “Jesus I offer this up to you.” Only in heaven will we see the true value of these hardships offered in love. For now, we live in faith, confident that “the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us” (Rom 8:18).
Image: The Hill of Crosses, Lithuania